Female Breast Cancer: Types & Symptoms

Female Breast Cancer: Types & Symptoms

Breast cancer, among women, is steadily on the rise since the last 10 years. It is the most common cancer among women, far ahead of cervical cancer. Unlike other cancers that usually affect women after the age of 50, breast cancer can be diagnosed among younger women as well.

A sharp pain in the breasts, accompanied with some tenderness, often becomes a cause for concern, especially if it is a prolonged experience. Though a lump or mass in the breast is associated with breast cancer in a vast majority of women in their early 20s to 50s, it is usually a benign tumour in a majority of cases. Besides, breast lumps may also be the cause of hormonal changes among young adolescent women.

A tumour can be either benign or malignant. A benign tumour is usually not malignant tumour, which indicates at cancer. Unlike malignant cancer, it does not invade surrounding tissues or other parts of the body. Benign tumour usually does not require further treatment unless they affect nerves or blood vessels. When tests indicate at malignancy Dr. Amish V Dalal, an accomplished Surgical Oncologist, may recommend a surgery, if required.


Types of benign breast tumours

The major types of benign tumour can be classified as:

  • Fibroepithelial breast tumours

The unusual masses are a combination of various glandular elements and stroma (tissues).

  • Cysts and abscesses

Cysts are sacs containing fluid that may develop as result of hormonal changes associated with menstruation. An abscess is infection that may occur in women who are breastfeeding.

  • Calcification

When calcium salts get accumulated in a breast tissue, referred to as calcification in medical terms, may indicate at a potential breast cancer.  While most calcifications are caused due to normal biological processes, certain microcalcifications may be a result of breast carcinoma – a condition that develops from epithelial tissues of the breast.

  • Other types of breast lesions

Some breast lumps or masses may develop after a surgery, as a result of natural biological changes like pregnancy, among other reasons.

Symptoms indicating the presence of a benign breast tumour

Common symptoms of non-cancerous tumour or ‘fibroadenoma’ are:

  • Infection in breasts
  • Damaged tissue or fat necrosis, which appears like a cancerous lump but cannot be distinguished unless a biopsy is conducted
  • Fibrocystic breast disease

When tests indicate at malignancy, the medical oncologist usually recommends a Surgical Oncologist. Dr. Amish Dalal examines the medical condition of the patient and determines the line of treatment.


Types of Malignant Breast Cancer

Breast cancer can be broadly categorised into two types:

Invasive breast cancer

When nearby tissues are invaded by cancerous cells that break out from the inner surfaces of the ducts or lobules, it is referred to as ‘invasive breast cancer’. These abnormal cells may travel through the lymphatic system or bloodstream, spread to the surrounding lymph nodes and gradually to other organs like lungs, liver or bones in the early or advanced stages of the disease.

Non-invasive breast cancer

Here, the cancerous cell does not break out but remains restricted in its place of origin. When the cell originates in lobules, it is known as ‘lobular carcinoma in situ’ in medical terms, while it is referred to as ‘ductal carcinoma in situ’ when it remains inside milk ducts. The phase ‘in situ’ means ‘in its original place’. This type of breast cancer can eventually spread to the surrounding tissues and organs, developing into invasive breast cancer. This explains why it is also referred to as ‘pre-cancerous’.

Dr. Amish decides on the stage of malignancy and starts on the immediate course of treatment.

Symptoms of Malignant Breast Cancer

Here are some of the symptoms that may indicate malignant Breast Cancer:

Changes in how the breast or nipple feels

  • Tenderness or a lump or an unusual mass in the underarm area or near the breast or underarm area
  • Enlargement of pores in the skin of the breast (often resembling that of an orange peel) or a similar transformation in the texture of the skin

Changes in the appearance of breast or nipple

  • A sudden unexplained alternation in the shape or size of the breast
  • Sudden swelling of the breast
  • Dimpling or puckering on the breast
  • Nipple which is turned slightly inverted or inward
  • Unexplained shrinking of the breast, which usually is only on one side
  • Breasts suddenly become asymmetry in size
  • Skin of the breast or nipple turns red, scaly or swollen
  • Appearance of rashes on or around the nipple

Discharge from the nipple

For women who are not lactating, a whitish discharge from the nipple may be a symptom of malignant cancer.

As lumps in the breast is the major symptom for both benign and malignant cancers, awareness in women regarding the initial symptoms, followed by health check-ups and medical tests immediately is mandatory. Early detection of malignant tumours usually enhances the chances of cure. A monthly self-examination is a first step towards detecting an unexpected lump in the breast and consulting a doctor immediately. When tests indicate malignancy, the patient usually needs to approach a radiologist for chemotherapy and, if necessary, a Surgical Oncologist for further treatment. Doctor Amish Dalal recommends the surgery that may be well-suited for individual patients after a thorough examination of the patient’s medical tests.

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